Newly Signed Bill Creates Stiffer Penalties for Harming Colo. Police Animals

April 25, 2024
The new legislation creates a separate Class 4 felony charge for someone who "knowingly or recklessly" kills or harms a Colorado law enforcement animal to keep it off duty for at least three months.

By O'Dell Isaac

Source The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

While most longtime dog lovers have experienced the heartache of losing a four-legged family member, few know what it's like to lose one to an act of violence.

Ronnie Hancock does.

Hancock, an El Paso County sheriff's deputy and K-9 handler, was one of four officers who responded to an April 11, 2022 incident involving an armed suspect in Manitou Springs. Hancock's K-9 partner, Jinx, was killed in the line of duty that day, shattering a bond forged over hundreds of hours of training and patrolling together.

"The relationship between an officer and a K-9 partner is extremely tight," Hancock said. "We spend so much time together and put so much trust into each other. The bond we build together is very strong, and when it is broken, it can be devastating."

That's why Hancock felt compelled to be present last week when Gov. Jared Polis signed into law a bill that modifies felony charges for harming or killing law enforcement animals.

House Bill 24-1074, Aggravated Cruelty to Law Enforcement Animals, follows last year's HB 23-1286, which made harming or killing police or service animals a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and $500,000 in fines. The new bill, sponsored by Reps. Ryan Armagost (R- Berthoud) and Monica Duran (D — Wheat Ridge), specifies a separate Class 4 felony charge for someone who "knowingly or recklessly" kills or harms a law enforcement animal badly enough to put it out of commission for at least three months.

"The biggest change is that (the new bill) delineates the difference between law enforcement animals and service animals or pets," Hancock said. "It gives us a little foothold to continue down the road for future bills and laws for our K9s and horses."

The suspect who killed K-9 Jinx was fatally shot during the 2022 incident, but Hancock and his wife, Julie, later learned that if the suspect had lived, he would have only been charged with a misdemeanor for killing Jinx. The Hancocks saw that as an insult to the fallen K-9's brave and selfless final act.

"My family and I were definitely not happy when we learned that," Hancock said.

That's when Hancock and his wife joined a concerted effort to advocate for stiffer penalties for killing a law enforcement animal.

"When we first started discussing this, we wanted to make the penalties stiffer, but we didn't think we'd get this far," he said. "We were hoping to up the misdemeanor charge. When the penalty was increased to a Class 4 felony, we were extremely happy with it."

The new bill is a nod to the risk K-9s take every time they go out on patrol, said El Paso County spokeswoman Cassandra Sebastian.

"This new bill gives law enforcement animals the recognition that they earn when they go out on the streets with our deputies, deescalate difficult situations, apprehend dangerous criminals and protect the innocent," Sebastian said.

To Hancock, HB 24-1074 brings him a step closer to his ultimate goal, which is "to get our K9s and our horses recognized as law enforcement officers themselves and get the protections that regular law enforcement officers get," he said.

"By no means are we finished fighting for the legacy of Jinx."


(c)2024 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

Visit The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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